Before finding a manager, first make sure you know the difference between an agent and a manager (See: What Is An Agent?), you might need one and not the other!
Managers are experts at guiding their clients through whatever phase of their career they’re in, sometimes managers might even make suggestions about alternative paths to take. These days many working actors are talking about how their managers suggest they work on audiobooks, for instance (remember you could win a Grammy for one of those!). Usually, managers are not a good idea for a beginning actor. You’ll probably only want one after you’ve already attained some credits.
Finding a manager is like finding the right person to marry. It’s a relationship that should be very close. Unlike agents, which you can have several of, you only have one manager, and you’ll be spending a lot of time together. So it’s a two-way commitment. You have to love that person, and they need to love you back. Wow! That’s not easy to find! (tinder for managers? Hmmm).
If you’re set on finding a manager, consider where you are in your career and what you’d like to accomplish in the next few years. Managers usually make their clients sign three year contracts, so make sure you’re ready for the commitment. So the first step in your path to finding a manager is setting up a list of goals you’d like to achieve in the mid to long term range. Not only will this list help you define your own career, but your future manager will be impressed when they see you’ve done your homework.
Search IMDB and IBDB for actors you admire, and see how they launched their careers. It’s usually a winding path. Would you like to focus on TV commercials or theater? Or push heavily to be on a TV show? This is also a New York vs. LA thing. Yes, you can (and will) audition for anything, but knowing your ‘type’ and your goals will help you stay focused and make ‘smart’ decisions.
The second step in your search for a manager is to find out who YOU want to work with. You want a manager that works in the fields that you do. Some might specialize in Theater rather than TV Commercials, for instance. You can use the “Casting Directors List” to look for managers that are a good “fit”. The CDL lets you flip through bios and ancillary information on each manager faster than needing to go to every persons website.
Also ask around and get referrals from people you know, and do as much research as you can online. You want to know who are the other clients the manager works with, what fields they specialize in, and what others say about this manager.
Nowadays there are usually two ways people meet managers: Either in person (at a networking event), or through email.
If someone you know recommends a manager to you. Ask them if they can set up an initial meeting for you, even if it’s just an email introduction. As most people, managers will be more likely to take seriously an email from someone they know, rather than a complete stranger.
More than likely, you’ll also need to do some cold self-introductions. If that’s the case make sure you’re articulate, clear and assertive about why you’d like to work with them. People like to know you’ve researched them and are choosing THEM, not just any manager.
So let’s say you are at an event. Instead of just saying, “Hi, here’s my picture and resume, I’d like to work with you”. Perhaps you find out from research (again, the CastingDirectorsList might be of service here) that you’re both from Ohio. Maybe you’re opening line can be “I hear you’re from Ohio, I’ve always been a huge fan of the Melt Bar and Grill, do you know it?”. This is an engaging way to start a conversation. It’s a question that requires a response. If they too know the Melt Bar, then you both can bond over an experience. And if they don’t, maybe you can tell them about it so next time they visit their mom they can take her there. Whatever it is, try to engage in a fun, casual way (that’s not creepy!). Don’t waste tons of time, but a moment of fun engagement is fine. Move quickly on to the next topic which might be “Here’s my picture and resume, I’d love to work with you because I love how you’ve managed the career of Jane Doe”. In other words – be specific. With that, you’ll be miles ahead of every other actor that’s talked with them that day.
If it’s an email introduction, you might try a lighter version of the same technique. You can’t ‘engage’ as much, but your opening letter can still mention any connection you have, and definitely include WHY you want to work with this manager. This is more important than anything.
The next step is to set up the meeting with the manager. Remember these are very busy people, so come to the meeting prepared with everything they asked for, and more. Since this is not an audition for a specific role, there won’t be sides. Instead managers will often ask to see a monologue. Make sure you’re doing something that showcases everything that’s unique about you, what you’re bringing to the table.
There usually will also be a quiet time where you both sit and talk for a bit. During this time, show your assertiveness by asking questions such as:
Do you have other clients similar to me? ((You should already know the answer to this, so ask in a way that engages them).
How often do you talk to your clients?
Mention another of their clients and ask them how they started working together, and what’s their favorite project with them.
Ask them for initial suggestions about what you’ve done so far and where they think you should go next. Even if you don’t work with this manager, you’ll walk away with some free, expert advice!
Once the craft and career questions are over, make sure to talk about the terms of the contract too. What is their cut? How long do they sign their clients for?
Make sure you write a quick thank you note the day after your meeting, mention something that encourages a follow up, maybe ask another question or two. Your new manager will be impressed by your etiquette and might suggest a project as follow up.
Keep in mind throughout this process that your acting ability is only half of what you are selling. The entire time you engage with a manager (and a director, or anyone else) they are wondering “Do I want to spend time with this person”.
Yes. It’s as simple as that. Because they get to CHOOSE who they want to spend their time with! Would you rather be with a friendly, fun person or an abrasive, rude person? Or work with someone who’s lazy or someone who’s on the ball and smart? Also, in the case of a manager, they are investing their time and energy into you. They are looking for people who are going to also spend time and energy on themselves.
So go out there, and be smart, prepared, friendly, assertive (not aggressive), and tenacious. These qualities, along with great acting skills, will land you the manager that’s right for you.